MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino-Australian guard Jordan Heading will be immediately tested when he plays for the Philippines for the first time in a decade.
Heading, a product of California Baptist University, played for the Philippine youth team all the way back in 2011, for the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship that took place in Nha Trang, Vietnam. At the time, his teammates included JJay Alejandro, Kyles Lao, Prince Rivero, and Rev Diputado.
Olsen Racela called the shots for the youth team as they finished fourth in the tournament.
This time around, Heading will team up with the likes of Ange Kouame, Dwight Ramos, Javi Gomez de Liano, and Isaac Go in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers. With coach Tab Baldwin at the helm, they'll seek to advance to the main FIBA Asia tournament that is scheduled for August in Indonesia.
"It's been awesome," Heading said of his experience so far with the Philippine national team program.
"The call up to the men's team has obviously been a little quicker than I thought, and I'm really thankful for that, and I'm really excited for this opportunity," he added.
Heading, now 25 years old, was selected by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in the recent PBA Rookie Draft to be a full-time Gilas Pilipinas player. Though it's been 10 years since he last wore the national team jersey, Heading said he is ready for the challenge.
"I had an amazing time with Batang Gilas, and I'm sure my experience here is gonna be greater," he said.
Gilas Pilipinas will play South Korea twice -- on June 16 and 20 -- and Indonesia on June 18 during the third and final window of the qualifiers.
Heading is likely to have a big role in the games especially after veteran point guard Matt Nieto and team captain Rey Suerte both went down with injuries during camp.
"As soon as anyone in the team gets injured, whether it's our captain Rey or anyone else, we have that next man up mentality," said Heading. "All our guards are ready to do the jobs that are asked of them, and the jobs that need to be done."
While this may be the first time in a while that Heading will play for the Philippines, he does not lack international experience. He has played both in the United States and Australia, as well as with Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Heading hopes those experiences will help him lead the young Gilas team as they take on South Korea and Indonesia in the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Gym.
"It's just sort of trying to bring my experiences together and help these young guys and to help them keep their heads in, I guess you can say stressful situations," said Heading. "Just really try to bring a cohesive attitude, and a positive attitude throughout the whole game and all our trainings."